Mike Strantz, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 50 after having designed only eight new courses, is the critically acclaimed genius that designed Royal New Kent. Strantz’s layouts are known for being unique and memorable, and that is certainly true of Royal New Kent. The publicity campaign for the club calls the course “an inland links” and “a tribute to Royal County Down and Ballybunion,” two of Strantz’s favorite courses. Trying to emulate those courses is a lofty goal, one that may be impossible to attain without proximity to the sea. However if you can imagine plucking up Royal County Down by its roots and transplanting it, bunkers, dunes and fescue included, to a hilly inland tree-lined landscape similar to that of St George’s Hill or Sunningdale, then you’ll have an idea as to what Royal New Kent is like.
The course is a beautiful brute, measuring over 7,300 yards from the tips and is rated as the most difficult course in Virginia. Like the fraternity pledge in the movie Animal House after each smack on the bum from the pledge-master, when you finish your round at Royal New Kent you’ll feel beaten but will likely say to the starter: “Thank you Sir, may I have another?” Many of the fairways are bordered by dunes and hills covered with high fescue. The landing areas are fairly wide, therefore, played from the correct tees the tee shots are not too dangerous. This is a course that requires great focus and concentration on the second shots (and third shots on the par fives) as there are all varieties of danger and difficulty lurking, including more than 120 strategically placed bunkers, most of them large and/or deep. Several holes (including my favorite, the par five 5th) have narrow well-protected waists that separate one section of fairway from another and for good measure there are a few blind shots that result from changes in elevation. The large greens (one is 80 yards deep) are well protected by bunkers and/or burns. Several of the greens are multi-tiered requiring an approach to the correct section in order to either hold the green or avoid a three putt.
The first hole is a dogleg left with an elevated tee shot down into a valley. To shorten the hole a long hitter can cut the dogleg, which is over high hills (higher than the Himalayas of Prestwick). The green is elevated with a false front. A short approach can roll back 60 yards. The 2nd is a fantastic par five in the shape of an upside down fishhook. If you dare to try a 225-250-yard shot (all carry) across a deep hollow you can go for the green in two. All four par threes are interesting. The 7th is 173 yards from an elevated windswept tee to an angled green fronted by a burn with bunkers right and back. There is really no safe place to miss and club selection here is crucial and difficult due to the size and shape of the green and the wind. No two holes on this course are the same and each will be remembered in your mind’s eye long after you leave the course.
Above article by Stewart Abramson
Formerly owned by Traditional Golf Properties, Wingfield
Golf purchased Royal New Kent in 2018 and subsequently closed the facility for
restoration. The new owner worked with the late Mike Strantz’s original
team to restore the course – which reopened in Spring 2019 – at a
reputed cost in excess of $2 million.
Today is the day Royal New Kent reopened. I had the pleasure to play today. The renovation of the course followed the goal to replicate the course as Mike Stranz originally designed. They brought in Mike's widow and she had all of the original plans. They utilized much of the original team also for the work. The principle difficulty RNK had was drainage. Of the 2 Million spent on the renovation about half was for replacing most all of the drainage system.
The course came out grand. It is very much what it was originally. At this date it is not per se primary growth season in VA for grass. So my review is based on that. The greens are in phenomenal shape. The green complexes are bewitching. Precision is required with your entries.
The vast work on the drainage is readily noticed and seems to be working quite well. VA has had a very wet winter and early spring. The bunkers have been worked on extensively and the white sand is fine and diabolical.
Pick your tee box carefully. For the Male golfer there are 5 sets of boxes from 5455 with a 132 slope and 6132 with a 142 slope all the way to 7480 with a 77/154 rating. Good shots can end in precarious spots. A Mike Stranz feature is diagonal greens which require precise distance control based on the direction hit. With many elevated greens, a near miss can trundle down a slope to leave a 15 foot elevation climb bunker shot.
The par 3's are all unique and memorable. The 4's are varied and several are very reminiscent of the copied holes from Royal County Down and Ballybunion. The par 5's may be the strongest set of holes the course has. Each quite different and memorable.
Royal New Kent is a stellar course and should climb on all the ratings lists. It is a great thing that Wingfield Management did by recreating as best they could a true Mike Stranz original.
A fantastic ride through the beautiful Virgina countryside. Mike Strantz was a genius of a designer and the golf industry lost someone very special when he passed. The course maintains a huge intimidation factor throughout the round in the form of giant blow out bunkers, steep hills, abundant mounding, heavy contoured greens, and vicious pot bunkers...... but with all that said..... the course is very playable.
A high handicap player may have a long hard day, but a mid handicapper (and lower) will find it very enjoyable. The fairways are wide and greens are large. But in my opinion the most playable factor in the design is the overall variety in the design. Not every hole is a beast for every player. I am a 9 handicap and managed to play at that level despite the appearance of the obstacles in front of me. I had a couple tough holes with high numbers but this was balanced by capitalizing on a few birdie opportunities (the par 5s and short part 4s in particular).
Stand out holes (and there are PLENTY) to me were the par 5 2nd with its boomerang fairway, the unbelievable 7th (par 3) which is just a treat from the upper tee box, the short dog leg right par 4 8th is a show stopper with its second shot wedge approach to a green wedged in the dunes, and the sweeping reachable par five 17th with its creek fronted green.
The only bad hole (which would be a stand out on any other course) is the last. This par 4 just does not fit the rest of the links. It is a good hole with a carry over water to a peninsula fairway, then another carry over water to the shallow green. Just doesn't fit the rest of the layout in my opinion.Anyway, I highly recommend that golfers venture to Royal New Kent for a round when in Virginia. It's a great course designed by a great architect. Enjoy and keep the ball in play! :)